Church expected to rise on Fairfield Road tract

Staff Writer

Church expected to rise
on Fairfield Road tract
Staff Writer

HOWELL — The Township Council has voted unanimously to rezone a 107-acre parcel on Fairfield Road to make way for a church. The vote to rezone the property from Special Economic Development (SED) to Highway Development (HD) paves the way for Calvary Chapel, Old Bridge, to build a church on Fairfield Road.

According to a previous presentation from representatives of Calvary Chapel, the church plans to sell 20 acres of the property to a commercial developer. Calvary Chapel’s development plan includes an 80,000-square-foot church and school. Also planned is a 40,000-square-foot expansion to include a gymnasium and other add-ons.

Once the church is built, the 3,000-member Old Bridge congregation will move to the new Fairfield Road location. In addition to Sunday services, the church would conduct outreach programs such as a food pantry, clothing distribution center and a policemen’s fellowship Bible college.

Township Planner Michael Vena said the church makes sense for the property.

Vena said the SED and HD zones include offices, financial institutions, medical centers and hospitals. He said the zones are almost identical, except that a drive-up restaurant is not allowed in the SED zone.

Also, Vena said Fairfield Road now qualifies for designation as a collector road, due to the opening of the Route 33 bypass.

Resident Donald Smith, whose wife, Pauline, is the Planning Board chairwoman, said he was not opposed to a church opening on Fairfield Road. He questioned why this section of Fairfield Road should be zoned HD when there was no access to the property from Route 33. He said that instead of rezoning, Calvary Chapel should seek whatever relief it needs from the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Vena said the church would constitute a conditional use in the HD zone if access to the property was on a collector road.

Smith said traffic studies are needed to make Fairfield Road a collector road, since at some points it is just 18 feet wide. To qualify as a collector road it needs to be at least 30 feet wide. Turning Fairfield Road into a collector road, Smith said, would "endanger the quality of life of quite a few homes on that road."

Smith noted that at least two homes on Fairfield Road are so close to the street that it would be impossible to widen the road at those locations.

Vena said a collector road was defined by traffic flow and having two travel lanes at least 12 feet wide each.

Resident Steve Meier, a former zoning board member who now sits on the Planning Board, said a collector road had to be at least 36 feet wide.

Meier asked the governing body, "Do we know if the residents will be willing to give up 18 feet of their property, and would this council be willing to condemn property to widen the road?"

Vena said the there was a "myriad of ways to solve the road widening" issue, including forcing the applicant to give up any needed frontage.

Resident Ken Allen told the governing body, "Seven months ago you said this application would be remanded to the zoning board. This is a spot zoning and to me it stinks."